View From The Glen

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It's the week between Christmas and New Year, I'm off with the kids, and we've taken to the slopes.

Mount Rigaud is only a 25 minute drive away, and though a small mountain,
it's perfect for the kids to practice the art of snowboarding.

Grace got her first snowboard this Christmas..and her first lesson...

Nanny was with us too, watching the action from the warmth of the ski chalet, but venturing out for a photo.

And after snowboarding....when our  cheeks were rosy and our eyebrows frosty...

...big cups of hot chocolate all round.

Christmas Day 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Songs

Christmas songs....aah! We love them because they make us joyful. Because they hold memories for us, reminding us of when we were children ourselves. Because of the meaning they have, or the sentiment they express, or the feelings they create.

It's difficult to choose favourites, but here are some of mine. These are the ones I can listen to over and over, and without which, it  just wouldn't seem like Christmas:

Traditional Favourites
Away In A Manger
O Little Town Of Bethlehem
Silent Night
I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
Adeste Fidele
O Holy Night
Angels We Have Heard On High

Other Favourites
A Time For Peace - Roger Whittaker
Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees - Elvis Presley
White Christmas - Bing Crosby
C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S - Jim Reeves
At Last I'm Ready For Christmas - Barra MacNeils
Christmas In Dixie - Alabama
Tender Tennessee Christmas - Amy Grant
Christmas in Killarny
Have A Holly Jolly Christmas
Silver Bells

Honourable Mention
The First Noel
River - Joni Mitchell
Snoopy's Christmas - The Royal Guardsmen
Kids - Kenny Rogers

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Solstice


It's as if the universe is taking a deep breath 
Pausing for a moment.
And in the silence and the stillness,
The tranquility of the season is there waiting 
If we only take the time to listen.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas In The Country (Part III)

Christmas in the country,

Like another time and place.
I see it in the little things,
In every smiling face.
It's crystal nights and far off lights
And children count the days.
Country Christmas and love will lead the way.
- Roger Whittaker, Christmas In The Country

It's the last weekend before Christmas. The house is decorated, the cookies are baked, the tree is lit. School is out, spirits are high, excitement is mounting.

It's time to Deck The Halls, by which I mean incorporate one of my favourite Christmas traditions, one that stems from medieval times, and is a bit on the pagan side too. The Winter Solstice is upon us, the Yule season, and in our house that means enjoying a crisp winter afternoon out of doors collecting pine boughs and red berries and bringing all those smells of the outdoors inside, to be placed with the holly and mistletoe, and the strings of popcorn and cranberries, on windowsills and around doorways. We light up the house with oil lamps and candlelight, and make sure there is a blazing yule fire to ward off the darkness on this longest night of the year*.

Feasting is an important part of the day. We enjoy tourtiere and decadent desserts, including a spicy figgy pudding, sing carols and drink mulled wine shouting wassail (be whole) to which the reply is drinkail (drink and be merry). We'll move the furniture and dance Christmas polkas before settling down before the fire and telling riddles and stories by its light.

Welcome mid-winter!

* Yes, I know the actual solstice doesn't occur until Monday, Dec 21st

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I may need to get a television after all.

The poor children are so deprived that the height of entertainment for them is watching me slice carrots in the food processor.

Can we slice some more carrots next week, Mom? Pleeee...ase! This was an actual quote from Erik over the weekend.

Of course we can, my darlings. And maybe, for a real thrill, we could shred some cabbage too.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas In The Country (Part II)

The chimneys hold the promise

Of a friendly fire inside.
And so it's after bedtime,
All the children's eyes are wide.
There might be cakes and short bread
On a shiny silver train,
Waiting for a country Christmas day.
-Roger Whittaker, Christmas In The Country

Getting the tree is always exciting. We decorated the house through the week, and this weekend the focus was on two things: going to the tree farm to get and decorate the tree, and having a family feast under the sparkling lights.

Finger food was on the menu - we're talking sausage rolls, meatballs, cheese and crackers and a big pot of chowder, and some mulled wine so that the house smells like cinnamon.

Grandad and Nanna were here to take pictures and join in the fun. And then today - in the snow - was the Christmas Pageant, followed by an afternoon of sledding and snowball fights. Now it's just us again, mugs of hot cocoa all round, and curling up fireside for a bit before we watch a Christmas movie.

Friday, December 11, 2009

History Mystery: Christmas Legend

The Duke of Bohemia, (907-935) known by his subjects as a just and rightous ruler, was also docmented as being noble in deed. According to 12th century chronicler, Cosmos of Prague, he "gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched."

Murdered by his brother, he was martyred, post-humously given regal title by Pope Otto I, and later canonized as a Saint. The patron saint of the Czech people, he is also the subject of the most famous statue in the Czech republic which sits in the square also named after him in the city of Prague.

He has inspired many legends, (such as the one which claims that when the motherland is in danger, his equestrian statue will come to life, raise a sleeping army and destroy the enemy with a legendary sword) and a well-known Christmas carol.

Who is he??

Answer: Good King Wenceslas

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Day

We make good use of snow days. 

Excellent, I said when I heard buses were cancelled. I have some long division worksheets for you to do today while I'm at work.

What really happened is this:


Playing Outside

I came home at lunch and we made cookies.

And they watched a movie while I worked at my computer (yep, this is me, hard at work).

Nothing whatsoever to do with division.

Unless you count having to divide 52 cookies by 5 to see how many we get each.

Monday, December 7, 2009

25 Days of Christmas

I think this is a great idea, this Christmas challenge from A Peek Inside The Fishbowl. There are so many things to do at Christmas and it's so easy to lose track of the things most important to you and your family over the holidays.

My 25 Days of Christmas isn't really 25 days at all, more just a list of things I want to do in December that will contribute to the overall cheer of the holidays because they are a) fun for the whole family or b) give us a chance to slow down and appreciate the season. Because I work, some of them can be done simultaneously (such as drink wine, write cards, and listen to Messiah) or can be fitted in to our regular routine (reading books, watching a movie)

So what's on my list?
  • Drink wine and make plans
  • Read A Christmas Carol (every year, without fail)
  • Read Christmas stories by the fire before bedtime
  • Have a Christmas Movie Night with the kids
  • Christmas Cookie Baking (gingerbread men)
  • Listen to Messiah
  • Write and address Christmas cards
  • Letters to Santa
  • Write a Christmas Story with the kids (this year: a pioneer version)
  • Plan a Christmas Day concert (I supervise, the kids plan)
  • Christmas Tree farm and sleigh ride
  • Tree Decorating fondue and snack night
  • Old Fashioned Carol Sing
  • Christmas Parade
  • Visit Alight at Night at Upper Canada Village
  • Take the kids shopping for Dad (yes, this is fun. The trick is knowing what to buy ahead of time, feeding them before we go, not combining it with any other shopping, and going for hot chocolate afterwards) 
  • Pot Luck Christmas get-together with friends
  • Decking of the Halls (medieval tradition) followed by a solstice feast
  • Moonlit snowshoe or walk across the fields. Christmas hats optional.
  • Annual hair cut. (Kidding, but not by much)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas In The Country part I

Snow is falling faster now
And dusting on a hill.
Skaters on the river,
Gentle dancers in the chill.
The children's laughter ringing,
As they overturn their sleighs,
Waiting for a country Christmas day.
- Roger Whittaker, Christmas In The Country

We all have our own Christmas traditions. For me, there is no rush to start the Christmas season. November will see me make tentative plans and do a bit of online shopping, but that's all. Then December 1 arrives, and with it my annual  yule ritual of a glass of white wine and a calendar as I plot out what we will be doing and when.

And so this weekend, the first full weekend in December, we kick off our own Christmas In the Country with the local Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. This small town, hot chocolate drinking, christmas caroling event happens tonight, and is the perfect beginning to a weekend that will include decorating the house (but no tree yet), a Christmas parade, and baking cookies.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Twilight Fans - Skip This Post.

I read Twilight the other day. And New Moon.


I had tried Twilight once before, but unable to get past the first two chapters, had tossed it into a drawer where it stayed for a year, until I read a great review that compared Twilight to the classic Pamela/Shamela novels of the 18th century.

Having read both Richardson's Pamela and Fielding's Shamela, I was now awake and engaged, and I fished Twilight out of the drawer and read it. All the way through.


Neither the writing nor the plot improved much on re-acquaintance. I found myself rolling my eyes and gritting my teeth, in part at the book and in part at the incredible media frenzy that surrounds the latest movie. Having once lined up with friends (in the early 80's) and watched in amazement as they shrieked and swooned for a Michael Jackson look-a-like (hello??), and having witnessed the deluge of floral tributes that poured over a long-forgotten Halifax grave that just happened to belong to a mariner named Jack Dawson when the movie Titanic was at its height, it doesn't surprise me that teenage girls are obsessed with this series. That their mothers are too I find a bit odd, but each to their own. But the whole on-line debate about whether vampires or werewolves are sexier struck me as a bit ridiculous (though if pressed I'd have voted for werewolves - at least until I met Jacob, who I am sorry to say, impressed me even less than Edward.)

As for Edward, well, vampires aren't my idea of a romantic lead (icy lips, skin cold as thanks), but I say that with a codicil because I can see why he would appeal to a certain teenage set with his charisma, his sophistication, his passion for Bella, and yes (in complete agreement with the linked review) with his immense wealth. Indeed with the exception of that cold flesh (and maybe that's just me), Edward is the quintessential romantic hero, found in any number of YA/Adult/Romance genre novels.

But Bella... I couldn't warm to Bella. She was a bit dull but kind of sweet in a shy way at first. Endearing even. Her infatuation with Edward quickly took her in a different direction, and by the time I got to New Moon and she pined herself into a post-Edward depression, not eating, not sleeping, not seeing friends for months, I lost patience. I give even the sappiest teenage girl more credit than that, and I'd personally have liked to see a heroine with a bit more resilience, a bit more spark.

Having mentioned most of the things I didn't like, and without going into the complete laughability of the convoluted plot reviews of books 3 & 4 that have convinved me to stop reading at book 2, I must just say this: that Stephanie Myer draws out the sexual tension between Edward and Bella very well and has captured the raw emotion of first love. That's what makes you read on, that's what holds the reader. I think it's also largely why New Moon fails - sustaining that kind of tension just isn't possible, and Myer, for all her plot twists and turns, loses touch with the one thing she does really well.